This is a fantastic announcement in and of itself, but it’s also a brilliant example of corporate trolling and punching back at a rival in terms of timing.

Today, Disney has announced a new partnership with TikTok which will enable TikTok users to choose from a range of Disney character voices for TikTok’s text-to-speech feature.

@disneyplus Look who’s talking—literally! ???????? New Text-to-Speech voices ft. some of your fave characters are available now! Can you unlock them? #DisneyPlusDay ♬ original sound – Disney+

So, instead of that regular, slightly too happy female voice that you hear over and over in TikTok clips (I’m looking at you, ‘Jessie’), you can now use C-3PO or Rocket, which could be a good way to increase engagement and will undoubtedly lead to new viral trends involving characters saying things they shouldn’t.

But here’s why it’s even better: Instagram has revealed that Reels, its TikTok clone, would have text-to-speech support, as well as its own voice effects capabilities.

Reels text to speech

Which, of course, trails TikTok significantly, as you’ve been able to add this to your TikTok clips since December last year, and as noted, it’s already a highly used feature in the app. Given this, it does make sense for Instagram to add the same, but it also means that TikTok is leading the way on another key innovation, and with Instagram constantly trailing, that will make it hard for it to win back young users, and become the cool place to be one again.

And now that Instagram finally catches up on this element, TikTok one-ups them straight away.

That was unlikely planned, as the feature has been announced to coincide with Disney+ Day, and couldn’t have been timed to align with Instagram’s feature launch. But still, it once again underlines that TikTok is the leader in the space, and that Instagram is the older, less cool app that catches up on the cool new thing months – almost a year – after it began trending.

And now that TikTok has progressed to the next step, Instagram’s speech-to-voice is already second-best a day after its introduction.

That is extraordinarily fortunate timing for TikTok, and it exemplifies why it is the most popular app right now, especially among younger, more tech-savvy audiences.

If Instagram and its parent company, Meta, truly want to win back the youth, they’ll have to reclaim the lead in the sector, which they don’t appear to be close to accomplishing right now. As part of a larger strategy adjustment to enhance long-term profitability, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently revealed that the firm will focus exclusively on younger audiences going ahead. However, in the early phases of this new push, those efforts appear to be solely focused on message and regaining popularity by collaborating with TikTok influencers, which is hilarious.

 

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That will assist with exposure, but it’s not like no one knows what Facebook is or what it does, so it won’t make a difference. Will it help to bring Facebook, and Meta in general, back into fashion?

It feels a little contrived right now, as if Meta is trying too hard to keep up with the current trends and be “down with the kids” in its messaging.

On this front, Meta would be the true victor if it could lead the next wave of innovation and become the creator of new trends based on the latest features and user feedback. Which is a more challenging option to take since you can’t predict what will catch on and what won’t, but Meta can invest in new tools and develop features that aren’t accessible in other applications.

For the previous 5-10 years, it hasn’t been Meta’s strong suit — and, oh look, that’s when it lost touch with younger viewers.

Facebook usage chart

Facebook originally rose to prominence by beating MySpace, because it was better, it was cooler, and people eventually migrated to the blue app, and its functionality, instead. Instagram then rose to become the next cool place to be, so Facebook bought that, then Snapchat gained traction as the trending app of choice. Facebook tried to buy Snap too, but since then, it’s essentially lost its spot as the leader in creative innovation, with Snapchat’s Lenses becoming the leading trend-setter, in terms of key updates, then TikTok taking over after that.

When was the last time a must-see, must-use feature on Facebook or Instagram got everyone talking? Snap Lenses has done this on a regular basis, while TikTok has been able to spawn new trends with features like Duets, innovative AR tools, and, yes, text-to-speech.

The first step is to get people talking about and sharing their experiences, and Meta isn’t in any way the leader at the moment.

It’s fascinating to see this demonstrated so clearly in one statement, which was most likely not intended in this manner. Which might make it much more important in this regard.